In her debut novel, Morrow tackles a plethora of black experiences in America such as racism, sexism, and the stigmatism of black hair, while simultaneously providing a colorful and deeply moving modern fantasy of two sisters navigating self-discovery and friendship. The story begins with the murder trial of an African American woman named Rhoda Taylor who was suspected to be a siren. Tavia, along with the rest of her family, is nervous about her safety as she sees Rhoda as herself: a black woman who is seen as a threat rather than a victim of violence. While Effie is determined to protect her sister’s secret, she too is secretly dealing with unexplainable magic of her own that is slowly threatening to reveal her true identity of which her family has prevented her from knowing since birth. Together, Tavia and Effie rely on each other more than ever as their community seeks justice for the many killings of unarmed black victims.
In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that incorporates Greek mythology, European mythology, fantasy, and American history all in one. Morrow took it upon herself to tell a very unique story that combines both mythical and supernatural creatures while weaving together real-life black experiences. She transports her readers to an unusual world with sprites and sirens, but she also adds very familiar issues. While effectively delivering an irresistible story of friendship and power, Morrow masterfully blends issues like the lack of media coverage of black female victims and the pervasiveness of racial profiling by police officers so as to educate her readers in a mild approach while still entertaining them. Her writing is powerful and the message is eternal. There were countless moments throughout this book where I was deeply moved and inspired.
“We’ve got a secret, and as far as my dad’s concerned, everything threatens to give us away.”
Along with her creative storytelling, Morrow uses alternating points of view which not only allows her readers to get a deeper insight into Tavia and Effie’s complicated issues but also highlights the world they live in, which mirrors our very own.
All in all, not only is this book timely, but I would also say it’s the first step to understanding a few important issues about black struggles for those who aren’t quite ready to dive headfirst into America’s complicated relationship with her African American citizens. It’s irresistibly compelling without shying away from the many painful truths within the black community.
In this book, Rhodes tackles the all too real pain of racial injustice, colorism, and prejudice faced by people of color in schooling systems, along with the common act of whitewashing in history. 12-years-old Donte Ellison is falsely accused by the captain of the fencing team, “King” Alan, of disrupting class by throwing a pencil at a fellow student. He is later arrested and suspended for his conduct. Though Donte is angry at the fact that no one would believe he’s innocent, instead of sulking about his situation, he seeks the help of a former fencing olympian, so as to confront his bully and the blatant racism that exists in his nearly all-white prep middle school in their own turf: fencing.
Although this book was written for a much younger audience, I am completely shocked at Rhodes’ ability to confront a very painful topic with such simplicity and grace. In addition to confronting issues like racial injustice, colorism, economic privilege, and prejudice, Rhodes mentions the fatal shooting of twelve years old Tamir Rice to also highlight police brutality against the black community, along with systemic racism and the school-to-prison pipeline. Such topics are often considered inappropriate for young children, yet Rhodes held nothing back. She uses Donte Ellison’s experiences as an example to show young readers the power in fighting for what you believe and surrounding yourself with people who will fight with you.
“Sitting, I stare at the black specks on the white linoleum. A metaphor? That’s what they’re teaching me in English. Metaphor. Except I won’t believe I’m just a black speck. I’m bigger, more than that. Though sometimes I feel like I’m swimming in whiteness. “
The other reason why I enjoyed this book immensely was the fact that Rhodes mentioned my favorite book: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss. Rhodes took the opportunity to educate her young readers about General Alex Dumas and his heroic sacrifice. Like Dumas, she uses and gives voice to the many black athletes that are almost forgotten from the pages of our history.
In the end, this heartbreaking story is a must-read for anyone who would like a simpler understanding regarding the issues that have haunted the black community for centuries.
I know it’s been some time since I last posted anything, and I am truly sorry for my disappearance. Towards the end of last year, work was both chaotic and stressful which led me into a massive reading slump. However, right when things started to calm down, the world stopped due to the Coronavirus. Like everyone else, I was a bit nervous and scared about this pandemic. Standing in long lines at grocery stores, being holed up at home, and receiving devastating updates from news outlets all had me craving for some kind of diversion from the unfolding crisis. And like a true bibliophile, I turned to books as my refuge during these trying times. To my amazement, I’ve read a total of five books last month! Now, I know that’s not an impressive number, but if you’re a slow reader like myself, you’ll agree that this is a colossal achievement. With that being said, here are the books that have kept me sane during this time, along with a brief review:
The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory — This book was not for me. I didn’t enjoy it one bit. The plot was OK but the execution was very cliche. The characters were annoying and the romance felt cheesy and rushed. I normally don’t DNF a book — a bookish terminology which means Did Not Finish — and because I bought this book with my own money, I owed it to myself to finish reading it no matter how boring the story was.
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter — This book should have been featured above as the second novel to the right but I grabbed the wrong publication for this photo. Oops. Anyway, this book was fantastic! Absolutely moving! I normally avoid any holocaust novels because I just can’t stomach the horrific truth. However, I accidentally purchased this book without reading the synopsis, thinking it was a romance novel. However, I am so glad that I obtained this amazing book! The author was inspired to write this incredible true story of a Jewish family that got separated at the start of World War II. Finding out more about what the Jewish community really went through in order to survive shocked me to my core. This book made me cry, laugh, and cry even more.
Eighteen-year-old Amanda Hardy is ready for a fresh start at Lambertville High School. After being severely bullied at her old school and ending up in the hospital with multiple injuries, Amanda wants nothing more but to survive her senior year and move far away from the south after graduation. However, unlike her life back in Smyrna, Georgia, Amanda is the new it-girl and is finally creating genuine friendships. Yet, she has a deep secret that she is desperately trying to keep from ruining her new life. In her old school, Amanda was known as Andrew. After meeting the cute and easygoing Grant, Amanda’s resolve is put to the test as she gets closer to him.
This book is absolutely a page-turner from the very beginning. However, what makes this publication so beautiful is that it is a fantastic work of fiction by an actual transgender author. In her debut novel, Meredith Russo perfectly communicates the experience of being a transgender teenager very clearly, while indirectly highlighting the importance of being true to oneself and maintaining a level of self-worth. I enjoyed this story so much because of what Amanda Hardy had to endure. In high school, bullying is a social norm, and Amanda—being as different as she is—makes for an easy target. Yet, it’s usually how one deals with being bullied that will either help them to push forward or lead them to fall apart. At the beginning of the story, we meet Amanda who is extremely terrified and shy, crumbling inside when she receives awkward looks or hurtful comments. But towards the end, Amanda develops the courage to be proud of who she is and refuses to apologize for choosing to live her true self.
Seventeen-year-olds, Stella Grant and Will Newman are cystic fibrosis (CF) patients who meet in a hospital where they experience falling in love for the first time while dealing with the uncertainty of their future. Stella’s a rule follower and control freak who is determined to increase her lung functionality in order to be approved for a lung transplant. She is meticulous in taking her medications and treatments, efficiently. Will, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. He’s a rule breaker who is tired of medications, treatments, and drug trials, which are often unsuccessful. Since he has also contracted B. cepacia on top of having CF, Will’s goal is to travel the world and live life to the fullest until his very last breath. However, as the two get to know each other, feelings are developed and the physical barriers of remaining six feet apart are tested.